UW-Parkside Student Conducts Kenosha Mayoral Candidate Interviews
Elishai Riley, President of the Parkside Student Government, Provides Mayoral Candidate Interviews ahead of upcoming election
Kenosha, Wis.- Elishai Riley feels a responsibility to help others make an informed decision about the upcoming Kenosha mayoral election. Riley is a senior political science major and the president of the Parkside Student Government. Being a Kenosha resident himself, he recently invited all of the balloted Kenosha mayoral candidates to participate in one-on-one interviews with him to allow voters to make an informed decision when the polls open.
After Riley reached out, five of the candidates agreed to meet with him. The five candidates who were interviewed were Lydia Spottswood, Koerri Elijah, David Bogdala, Lizz Garcia, and Andreas Meyer. The interviews took place between Dec. 18 and 20 in UW-Parkside’s Bedford Hall. The questions each candidate answered cover topics from potential plans for the uptown area, community engagement and identity, public safety and law enforcement, education and youth engagement, transportation and infrastructure, as well as each candidate’s vision for their term as Mayor of Kenosha among others.
Riley recounts that he got the idea after one of the candidates had reached out to him to arrange a meeting at UW-Parkside. “While the initial invitation was a factor, the primary motivation behind curating this mayoral forum was the absence of an event for balloted candidates. That bothered me,” Riley stated. He also envisioned the project as a learning experience. “With my impending political science degree, I saw this as a test run for my career,” he explained.
Riley also employed a collaborative and impartial method for sourcing the questions that he would ask the candidates. He gathered the questions from about 300 Kenosha citizens and UW-Parkside students. After receiving an adequate number of questions, he refined the scope of these questions before conducting the interviews. Riley managed to narrow the numerous inquiries submitted by the local community down to a focused set of eight questions. He also utilized other members of the Parkside Student Government and UW-Parkside faculty members to refine the questions.
He credits several UW-Parkside employees with helping with the production and content as well. According to Riley, UW-Parkside Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and professor of music Alvaro Garcia helped choose the location and assisted in operating the cameras and audio equipment during the mayoral discussions. Kevin Gray, UW-Parkside’s sound manager instructor, and UW-Parkside student Liam Simpson, also assisted.
In addition to the crowd-sourced list of eight questions. Riley worked with local schools to receive ice-breaker questions from an anonymous Fourth grader at Jeffery Elementary and two from anonymous KUSD high school students. The questions were compiled into a list of 10 that each candidate was asked. Each candidate was allotted three minutes to respond to every question posed during the multi-day forum.
Dr. Simon Akindes, a professor of political Science and Director of International Studies at UW-Parkside, played a crucial role in refining the questions posed by members of the Kenosha community. The Parkside Student Government executive board also helped select the elementary and high school student questions.
Riley hopes that the project will be accessible and helpful for members of the Kenosha community. “Success, for me, entails widespread distribution on local channels and social media platforms, reaching thousands of Kenosha residents. This production of mine is designed in its nature to be shared,” he said.
“My objective for this forum was to encompass the entire political spectrum that we have in Kenosha. The candidates present in these discussions are the candidates who have gained serious local traction, so it can be assumed that one of the candidates I sat down and asked questions to will likely be the next mayor of Kenosha,” Riley went on to explain.
This passion project, while a considerably demanding endeavor, was also an enjoyable experience for Riley. “To be the de facto voice and ears of the Kenosha community, was very empowering and humbling. My favorite part was absorbing the many opinions on such relevant topics. These are the local policymakers, what they say is a direct reflection of what is to be,” he commented.
In addition to this project being something enjoyable for Riley, it also provided significant learning experiences. “There is more that unifies us than divides us, as is apparent in the responses. Though Kenosha’s candidates lay all across the political spectrum, their inner moral yearning for a better Kenosha was overall alike,” he said.
To view the Kenosha Mayoral candidate interviews, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io4Sr5-ub14.